Poets And Poetry

Poetry Analysis Infant Joy by William Blake

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William Blake's Infant Joy portrays in but a very few lines four grand themes found in children; their innocence, their vulnerability, their contentedness, and their lack of identity. These themes can also be considered the characteristics of children which reflect the open ended nuances of the human condition.

The last three lines of the second stanza speak to the innocence of the child. “Thou dost smile, I sing the while; Sweet joy befall thee!” The presence of smiling, singing, and being joyous gleam with those innocent happy days only the adults remember of the two year old. The presence of the I is either Blake pretending to recollect his childhood or simply just using his observations of children or a specific child to draw upon. Because this child is so content, it is also made to be innocent. This presence of innocence also crops up the essence of vulnerability. Anytime there is innocence, there are vulnerabilities. Happiness can be lost. In other literary texts things such as faith, virginity, and trust can be lost through the process of aging. However, this child is only two. What are children to lose but everything when aging?

The content nature of the child can be certainly lost, but it is a bit different than complete innocence which is portrayed above. The words joy, happy, and sweet are sprinkled delicately throughout the poem to enhance the notion of the content nature of the two year old child. This repetition and presence calls to the attention of perpetual happiness. Though these factors can be tied to innocence which leads to vulnerability, the happiness of the child may also stand alone within the internal nature of the child.

How is this state of perpetual happiness achieved by the child? Perhaps that is answered by the child's search for a name. That of an identity. As people grow old, especially in the contemporary atmosphere of modern capitalism, they fall into label after label of compartmentalization breaking the human down into a superficial being. Black, female, gay, white, straight, male, poor, rich, soldier, teacher, Indian, and all the labels under the sun. Blake is arguing that to be young and without a label, is to be happy. It is to be perpetually joyous. The first stanza calls for this interpretation, “'I have no name; I am but two days old.' What shall I call thee? I happy am, Joy is my name.'”

To be young, Blake implicitly states, is to be without burden and to be innocent from a break down in personal identity. To identify and compartmentalize the human into arbitrary identities is to grow old and be put into boxes. These boxes are used by others to prey upon. The human adult creates and preys upon these differences to their own benefits and demise. The child on the other hand, by its nature circumvents this conflict. The result is perpetual happiness.

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